Meet the minds behind all that climate change data
Here’s your chance to get to know some climate scientists! Sure, they may have aced math, but they are also super cool. They study cave stalagmites and space geodesy and other stuff we can’t pronounce or spell — all in a selfless quest to understand how all that evil atmospheric CO2 is threatening life as we know it. But we digress. Grist is proud to have the Union of Concerned Scientists showcase and celebrate the researchers behind the news, the climatologists who are helping to save the planet — and your ass!
The nonprofit Union of Concerned Scientists started as a collaboration between students and faculty at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1969. It is now an alliance of more than 250,000 citizens and scientists who believe that thoughtful action based on the best available science can help safeguard our future and the future of our planet. UCS is currently leading a campaign to elevate the voices of climate scientists and educate the public about the overwhelming scientific evidence for human-caused global warming. Learn how you can get involved at www.ucsusa.org/evidence.
- Ted Schuur
- Wenhong Li
- Bethany Bradley
Climate Scientist and Biogeographer
- Julienne Stroeve
- Tom Knutson
- John Guinotte
- Richard Seager
Ocean and Climate Physicist
- Inez Fung
- Benjamin Santer
- Maureen Raymo
Paleoclimatologist and Sea Level Specialist
- David Inouye
- Warren Washington
- Camille Parmesan
- Keith Cherkauer
Engineer and Mud Specialist
- Cameron Wake
- Scott Luthcke
Space Geodesy Expert
- Julia Cole
Stories in this series:
Finding evidence of climate change in the caves of the American Southwest
Julia Cole finds evidence of the climate record in some fascinating places. Cole is a geologist at the University of Arizona. Most recently, her research has led her deep inside a limestone cave 50 miles southeast of Tucson. Preserved there, within stalagmites that have formed on the floor of the dark, perpetually humid cave, is what Cole calls “a robust archive” of climate history in the desert southwest. The stalagmites contain an almost continuous climate record that dates back tens of thousands of years to the last ice age, a time when ice sheets covered much of North America. Subtle …
Scott Luthcke weighs Greenland — every 10 days. And the island has been losing weight, an average of 183 gigatons (or 200 cubic kilometers) — in ice — annually during the past six years. That’s one third the volume of water in Lake Erie every year. Greenland’s shrinking ice sheet offers some of the most powerful evidence of global warming. Luthcke is a scientist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. He specializes in space geodesy, a branch of earth sciences that monitors Earth from space by measuring changes in the planet’s shape, orientation, and gravitational field. Lutchke …
Glacier gumshoe seeks secrets of climate change in ice
It takes a certain kind of person to gather ice cores from remote glaciers, cart them back to a lab, and unlock the clues they contain about the climate record. Such a person needs to be hardy and skilled enough in the field to lead expeditions loaded with equipment into some of the world’s most rugged-and frigid-mountain terrain. Back at the lab, this person needs technical acumen and a meticulous attention to detail in order to measure the cores’ trace chemicals down to the parts-per-trillion level. To be a glacial detective, in other words, a person needs to be a …
Tracking surface water on a warming planet
Keith Cherkauer studies mud. It’s a dirty business that has revealed a lot about global warming. As he trudged through rural Indiana farmland earlier this spring, Cherkauer, an agricultural and biological engineer at Purdue University, paid close attention to the way his boots sank more than an inch into the mud before they reached the solidly frozen soil below. The way surface water travels under these soil conditions fascinates Cherkauer — and worries him too. For the past decade, he has been monitoring soil temperatures and patterns of freezing and thawing in the upper midwestern region of the United States. …
Are butterflies the silent harbingers of global warming?
Camille Parmesan studies the effects of global warming by chasing butterflies. Sounds fanciful, but it is anything but. Her careful field observations of butterfly populations have produced compelling evidence of how climate change has already affected our living planet. In several landmark studies, she has helped pave the way for a body of eye-opening research that has tracked changes in numerous populations of plants and animals. It all started back in the early 1990s, when Parmesan was a graduate student happily studying the diet of the Edith’s checkerspot butterfly (Euphydryas editha). She was drawn into the field by her love …
Evidence of climate change springs ahead with blooming wildflowers
Spring certainly seems to arrive earlier these days than it used to. But is it a sure sign of global warming or just natural variability? After decades of careful research on wildflowers, University of Maryland ecologist David Inouye has some definitive — and disturbing — answers. This summer Inouye returns to the Rocky Mountain Biological Laboratory for the 40th consecutive year to study changes in wildflower populations some 9,500 feet high in the Rocky Mountains near Crested Butte, Colo. His work offers some of the most detailed understanding yet about climate change and its effects on alpine plant and animal …
The man behind the climate models
Warren Washington literally wrote the book on climate modeling. Introduction to Three-Dimensional Climate Modeling, which he co-authored with Claire L. Parkinson in 2005, is the classic graduate-level text in the field. A former head of the American Meteorological Society and an adviser to every president — Republican and Democrat alike — since Jimmy Carter, Washington has devoted his life to creating increasingly precise and accurate computer models of Earth’s climate. “What people need to understand is that these are not untested models scientists have dreamed up,” says Washington, now a senior scientist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR). …
Paleoclimatologist studies sea levels in a desert
Exactly how much did the sea level rise three million years ago? Okay. Probably not a question you’ve asked yourself lately. But the question and, more importantly, its answer are significant. They will help scientists understand how fast and how high our current sea levels are likely to rise as today’s global warming trend melts the remaining ice sheets in Greenland and Antarctica. Fortunately, there are researchers wrestling with the problem. Chief among them is Maureen Raymo, a paleoclimatologist at Boston University. Raymo heads a multidisciplinary team that is spending its second summer digging for evidence in the desert of …
CSI: Climate scene investigator
How do we know that human activities are responsible for warming the planet? Because just like criminals, climate change culprits, such as smokestack or tailpipe emissions, leave behind distinctive signatures or patterns. All climate investigators have to do is look closely enough, and hardly anyone has been looking longer or more carefully than Benjamin Santer.
Math whiz tackles the big carbon sink puzzle
Inez Fung is on a mission to find and account for every gram of heat-trapping carbon dioxide on the planet. And she knows where most of it is hiding.
Dust Bowl 2: Drought detective predicts drier future for American Southwest
If youâ€™re one of the tens of millions of people who live in the southwestern United States, get ready for drier weather. Thatâ€™s the message from Richard Seager, a climate scientist at Columbia Universityâ€™s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observa
Coral doctor sounds the alarm about more acidic seas
CO2 has acidified the oceans, and marine biologist John Guinotte says that spells trouble for coral reefs and for the marine ecosystem as a whole.
Global warming promises stronger hurricanes
Thomas Knutson studies storms and his research predicts that global warming is likely to mean fewer, but stronger Atlantic hurricanes.
Measuring fast-melting Arctic sea ice
Julienne Stroeve shows how dramatic changes in Arctic sea ice are occurring right now -- with enormous consequences for the whole planet.
Will climate change hasten the spread of invasive plants?
Bethany Bradley probes the link between climate change and "alien invaders." The climate scientist studies weeds such as kudzu and purple loosestrife.
Linking ‘big weather’ to global warming
Most people are understandably confused about the relationship between global warming and natural variability in the weather. After the huge snowfalls in the northeastern United States over the past few months, for instance, many people can’t help but wonder: With a winter of such magnitude, how can scientists say the planet is warming? Day-to-day and seasonal weather fluctuations present challenges not only for the public but also for climate scientists trying to tease apart the relationship between long-term climate change and weather variability. Wenhong Li, an atmospheric scientist at Duke University, studies precisely this link. Her latest research on precipitation …